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Announcement:

Moody's said that the new television streaming service, Aereo, faces long-shot odds against broadcast station lawsuit

16 Mar 2012

New York, March 16, 2012 -- Moody's said that it believes that the success of Aereo, a new online broadcast TV streaming service, against collective lawsuits from network owned and operated stations in New York is unlikely. Moody's believes that any repurposing or retransmitting of broadcast signals will likely fall afoul of copyright laws. However, if a model could be developed where the signals are more passively delivered to viewers and does not require copyright licensing, it could hurt broadcast industry retransmission fee trends, and in our view, may impact longer term decisions regarding retaining their broadcast spectrum. The major broadcast networks and a large proportion of large market TV stations are owned by large diversified media companies such as CBS Corporation (rated Baa2, owns CBS), News Corporation (rated Baa1, owns Fox), The Walt Disney Company (rated A2, owns ABC), and NBCUniversal Media, LLC (rated Baa2, owns NBC and Telemundo), and would be affected by disruptive business models such as that of Aereo.

Aereo is a new subscription service backed by billionaire Barry Diller, which will stream all major broadcast networks on non-TV devices and allow for DVR-like storage. The company has been sued for copyright violations by the major broadcast networks' owned stations in New York City, which have sought to block the service since they have not granted rights to Aereo for redistribution of their content.

The outcome of the lawsuit will have significant ramifications for the broadcast industry and future potential disruptive technology players. We do not believe that wireless service offerings using cell phone network capacity will have sufficient capacity at reasonable cost to the consumer to threaten current television distribution models, but access through the internet, either through public or commercial wi-fi or household wi-fi connections could potentially be disruptive on the margin where there are consumers that are less attracted to cable network television. Any broadcast service that bypasses pay TV operators, if successful, could undermine the industry's new found retransmission revenue from those pay-TV operators for the distribution of their content. These dollars, which are expected to grow steadily going forward, would be negotiated downward by cable operators if there is increasing usage of free distribution at their expense. Moreover, if their viewing were to migrate from TV to online, it would also jeopardize their advertising revenue since viewership measurement systems lag the industry and do not currently have capability of capturing online viewing accurately. In addition, network owned TV stations (O&Os) would be more impacted since they tend to be in large urban markets which have a younger skewing demographic, which Aereo and potentially others (if not scared off by the likely successful suit against Aereo) are likely to target first.

Consequently, if these companies were to lose the lawsuit against Aereo, and similar other services take hold, it may affect their position on avoiding spectrum auctions. The broadcasters who have been disinclined to sell their spectrum for reallocation to other uses, may decide to do so if their broadcast distribution model is in jeopardy. They may be influenced and consider going off the air and choose to become wholly reliant on pay-TV operators for distribution, gaining the monetary benefit of a spectrum sale and potentially preventing company's like Aereo from distributing their content for free and avoiding retransmission fees. This would not come easy however, as the stations and networks could lose some over the air viewership which would have a negative impact on ratings and ad revenues.

In our view, Aereo would be less of a threat to the cable industry, since it would be best suited for those who already don't have cable, or for people that wish to view broadcast television outside the home. It could however compete with "TV Everywhere" efforts by the cable industry, though TV Everywhere is expected to include cable network programming in addition to broadcast programming. The cost of the services will also be a factor. However, we believe it is unlikely that 'cord-cutters' will grow rapidly since they primarily consist of a young demographic that hasn't yet transitioned into household formation where TV viewing is more ubiquitous, or those who are doing without cable as result of tough economic times.

For further information please see the issuer comment posted to www.moodys.com.

Please see ratings tab on the issuer/entity page on Moodys.com for the last rating action and the rating history.

Neil Begley
Senior Vice President
Corporate Finance Group
Moody's Investors Service, Inc.
250 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10007
U.S.A.
JOURNALISTS: 212-553-0376
SUBSCRIBERS: 212-553-1653

John Diaz
MD - Corporate Finance
Corporate Finance Group
JOURNALISTS: 212-553-0376
SUBSCRIBERS: 212-553-1653

Releasing Office:
Moody's Investors Service, Inc.
250 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10007
U.S.A.
JOURNALISTS: 212-553-0376
SUBSCRIBERS: 212-553-1653

Moody's said that the new television streaming service, Aereo, faces long-shot odds against broadcast station lawsuit
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